August 22, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukrainian forces advance further in Robotyne, western Zaporizhzhia

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces continued to make advances in and around Robotyne in western Zaporizhia Oblast as of August 22 amid indications that Russian forces likely have a limited presence in the settlement. Geolocated footage published on August 21 and 22 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced in southeastern Robotyne and east of the settlement near Novopokrovka (13km southeast of Orikhiv). The Ukrainian 47th Mechanized Brigade published a video on August 22 showing its personnel successfully evacuating civilians from Robotyne while accompanied by Ukrainian journalists. The 47th Mechanized Brigade stated that its personnel broke through multi-echelon Russian defensive lines near Robotyne and have entered the settlement. The evacuations and the presence of Ukrainian journalists suggests that areas of Robotyne may be relatively secure due to diminished Russian positions in the settlement itself and the nearby area. Russian maximalist claims that Ukrainian forces only maintain positions on the very northern outskirts of the settlement are likely false given the footage and reporting from the 47th Brigade. Most Russian milbloggers continue to acknowledge that Ukrainian forces hold positions in much of northern Robotyne and that Russian forces likely control at most positions on the southern outskirts of the settlement at this time.

Russian forces appear to be concentrating their limited available reinforcements from elsewhere in the theater in the Orikhiv direction in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Ukrainian military journalist Konstantin Mashovets reported that elements of the 108th Air Assault (VDV) Regiment (7th VDV Division) deployed near Robotyne as of August 16 and near Novopokrovka as of August 20. Elements of the 108th were deployed near the Antonivsky Bridge as of July 29, and the “Sokol” Volunteer Battalion of the 108th VDV Regiment was reportedly operating near Staromayorske and Urozhaine in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area as of August 14. Elements of the 7th VDV Division’s 56th Regiment have likely been engaged in fighting in the immediate vicinity of Robotyne since early August. Elements of the 7th VDV Division’s 247th Regiment appear to be still operating south of Velyka Novosilka in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, although a prominent Russian milblogger suggested that some elements may be operating in the Robotyne area. Elements of the 7th VDV Division’s air assault regiments may be deployed across two axis as separate battalions and platoons, however. ISW previously assessed that the lateral redeployment of elements of the 7th VDV Division to the Robotyne area suggested that Ukrainian forces had severely degraded Russian forces in the area, and the possible commitment of elements of all three of its air assault regiments may suggest the further deterioration of the Russian situation in the area. 

Ukrainian offensive operations in other sectors of the front remain important because they can fix Russian units in place and prevent further lateral reinforcements. Criticisms of continued Ukrainian efforts in other sectors and calls for Ukraine to concentrate all available reserves on a single axis are thus problematic.  Ukrainian offensive operations around Bakhmut have fixed elements of multiple Russian airborne divisions and separate brigades in that area, as ISW has previously noted, rendering them likely unavailable to stiffen Russian resistance in the south. Ukrainian offensive operations south of Velyka Novosilka proceeding in parallel with operations toward Melitopol present Russian defenders with multiple dilemmas and the need to choose which axis to reinforce. Sound campaign design requires balancing between weighting a decisive main effort and avoiding allowing the enemy to concentrate all reserves on stopping a single obvious thrust.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces continued to make advances in and around Robotyne in western Zaporizhia Oblast as of August 22 amid indications that Russian forces likely have a limited presence in the settlement.
  • Russian forces appear to be concentrating their limited available reinforcements from elsewhere in the theater in the Orikhiv direction in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Ukrainian offensive operations in other sectors of the front remain important because they can fix Russian units in place and prevent further lateral reinforcements. Criticisms of continued Ukrainian efforts in other sectors and calls for Ukraine to concentrate all available reserves on a single axis are thus problematic.
  • The Ukrainian advance in the Robotyne area brings Ukrainian forces closer to launching operations against second lines of defense that may be relatively weaker than the first Russian defensive line in the area.
  • Russian forces appear concerned about recent Ukrainian advances in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia’s unwillingness to renegotiate the Black Sea Grain Initiative until all of Russia’s extensive terms are met during the BRICS Business Forum in South Africa on August 22.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin may be trying to increase Wagner’s presence in Africa as part of an effort to maintain Wagner as a cohesive and independent organization.
  • A Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) delegation arrived in Libya on August 22, likely as part of the Russian MoD’s efforts to set conditions to possibly replace the Wagner Group with MoD-affiliated private military companies (PMCs).
  • The Kremlin is reportedly planning to cancel gubernatorial elections in the Republic of Khakassia in order to prevent a Russian veteran’s loss and ensure a United Russia victory, likely demonstrating the Kremlin’s concern over domestic support for the war and the fragility of its veneer of electoral legitimacy.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia on August 22 and advanced in certain areas.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations on at least two sectors of the front on August 22 and made advances near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Russian authorities continue their campaign of religious persecution in occupied Ukraine.
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